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Can shipping be sustainable?

22 August 2022 | 3 Min Read

Are you the captain of a ship? Chances are, you probably aren’t. However, you probably do care about more sustainable ways of transport, and pretty much anything being done. 

So can one of the biggest polluters, the things that get our shopping, cars, gadgets, and pretty much anything from the far reaches of the planet to our home countries. Shipping contributes to 940 million tonnes of annual CO2 emissions alone. 


Now we can criticise where shipping is currently, but let’s consider the future. Can shipping really go sustainable? Can we see carbon neutral or low-impact ways to move our gifts and needs around the world? Let’s take a look at where things are now.


Over 2.5% of the world’s carbon emissions come from shipping

Now that may not sound massive to you, but that’s still a pretty good chunk of the pie. Agriculture, property, and electricity production for example are some of the biggest emitters. All of us contribute to some of these to some degree, we need electricity, need a roof over our heads, and need to eat roughly 3 times a day. But you don’t consider the shipping needed to even make some of those things happen.


Emissions are expected to increase

We’re in the 2020s, but there’s an expectation that CO2 emissions will increase by over 130% from that of 2008’s figures. In a world increasingly expected to drop emissions (as they should), shipping is headed in the wrong direction, especially as our demand for products overseas is seemingly never-ending. 


People are working towards a sustainable shipping future

There is hope in the industry and participants who want to make a change. The Sustainable Shipping Initiative is a great example, and the people who make the industry work are thinking of alternatives. The ideas of a circular economy, sustainable practices, and sustainable practices need to be brought in to improve the industry, and the world, and the SSI is helping make it happen.

Changing things takes more than just the ‘simpler’ principles of sustainability, it takes vision and big leaps forward. So here’s a cool example.


Norwegian fertilizer company Yara has created the world’s first emission-free container ship. The Yara Birkeland is an electric ship that navigates the Norwegian Fjords automatically, as it’s also crewless!

So how effective is an electric ship? Just this single example will save 1,000 tonnes of CO2 a year, and 40,000 trips by conventional diesel lorries. That’s a big impact by a single ship. When others invest in this and help scale up this solution, we could see a massive positive change in this dirty industry. 


With the autonomy of the ship too, people can be allocated to greener roles for the green transition. The green energy industry is set to produce a mass of new jobs while fossil fuels are phased out, so the sooner we transition, the better. 



So, are you looking forward to a ride on an electric ship someday? Will you consider the distance your shopping and products get shipped? Let us know on our socials and connect with our community at @sustainabuyer. 

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